Localist lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai has been arrested and charged for allegedly desecrating the national and regional flags after he was seen flipping the flags in protest during a legislative session last October.

Cheng, the leader of Civic Passion, was released on bail from the Central Police Station at 1am on Wednesday. He was required to appear before the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts on April 18.

Cheng Chung-tai. File Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

“We are now facing a general cleansing – the goal is very clear – it is to clear all troubles for Carrie Lam before she takes office,” he said after he was released. “We need to face it calmly to gather our strength.”

Cheng had said his office received a phone call from police on Monday asking him to pick up a prosecution notice at the Central Police Station. But he said on social media that the police should have sent the notice to the Legislative Council instead, since he was busy.

Cheng was set to appear on an online talk show on Tuesday night at the Proletariat Political Institute in Sham Shui Po founded by former lawmaker Raymond Wong Yuk-man.

When he arrived, he found that police officers were waiting for him below the building where the institute is located.

According to Passion Times, an online media outlet closely related to Cheng, 14 Criminal Investigation Division police officers were present.

Cheng claimed he was asked to go to the Cheung Sha Wan police station and then Central Police Station for arrest procedures.

【鄭松泰被14名CID拘捕片段】警方昨日(4月10日)知會鄭松泰,表示會就去年倒轉旗仔事件,正式起訴他「侮辱國旗罪」及「侮辱區旗罪」,並要求他到中區警署取信。鄭松泰昨日指因公務繁忙,要求警方將信件寄去立法會。結果在今日(4月11日)晚上,警方出動14名CID,在深水埗街頭拘捕鄭松泰。警員表示現在邀請他去中區警署做拘捕手續,而鄭松泰則指,現時先被帶去長沙灣警署。相關報道全文︰http://www.passiontimes.hk/article/04-11-2017/37170#熱血公民 #鄭松泰 #侮辱國旗罪 #侮辱區旗罪

Posted by PassionTimes 熱血時報 on Tuesday, 11 April 2017

At the October meeting, pro-Beijing lawmakers displayed the flags during the session as a political gesture.

Cheng said at the time that he flipped them upside down because he considered the display to be “cheap patriotic acts,” as pro-Beijing lawmakers ignored livelihood issues and the nationality controversy that LegCo President Andrew Leung was embroiled in.

“I flipped the Hong Kong flags upside down on behalf of Hong Kong people to show my discontent,” he said at the time.

The police told HKFP that it received a report on October 19 last year that a person flipped the Chinese flag and the Hong Kong flag at the Legislative Council Building.

They said that, after seeking legal advice, the police arrested a 33-year-old man on Tuesday,  and that he has been detained for investigation.

It is an offence to desecrate the national or regional flags by methods such as “burning, mutilating, scrawling on, defiling or trampling on it.” It carries a maximum penalty of a HK$50,000 fine and three years behind bars.

Cheng is also facing an investigation by a LegCo internal committee over the incident in an effort to disqualify him from his seat.

Other than Cheng, six pro-democracy lawmakers are facing challenges to disqualify them. Those included two facing prosecution over the 2014 pro-democracy occupy protests, and four lawmakers facing a court challenge to disqualify them on the basis of their oaths of office.

Two democratically elected localist lawmakers – Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung – were disqualified last year after losing a court challenge.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.